Women of Royalty
Erzsébet Báthory
The Báthory Family

The Báthory family was descended from the Hun Gutkeled clan, which had previously held a small amount of power in eastern European kingdoms, such as Poland and Slovakia. The family assumed the name Báthory from one of their estates named Báthor, meaning valiant upon achieving a reasonable amount of power. To keep influence within the family relatives married one another, which often resulted in numerous sadistic and mentally ill children.


A Beauty, But A Beast 


Erzsébet Báthory (Elizabeth Báthory) was born around either 1560 or 1561 to the Hungarian nobles György Báthory of Ecsed and Anna Báthory. Anna Báthory was the sister of the King of Poland and Prince of Transylvania, Stephan Báthory. Elizabeth grew up in the Hungarian town of Nagy-Ecsed on the Romanian border. Although a delicate and beautiful child, Elizabeth was ill treated by her elder brother and two sisters. A peaceful environment, Elizabeth was educated to read and write in four different languages German, Greek, Hungarian, and Latin. An intelligent girl, Elizabeth took both her studies and her appearance seriously. She was tall and slender but her most important physical mark was her pale and, in her opinion, perfect complexion.

Most people who knew Elizabeth did not find her a person easy to like. She was not happy to hear when people did not agree with her, especially over her appearance. She was very accusing and suspicious. Most were warned to be wary of Elizabeth even though she was such a young woman at the time.

Around the age of ten, in 1570, Elizabeth was betrothed to Count Ferencz Nadasdy de Nadasd of Fogarasfold, who was turning fifteen the same year. After departing from her home in Nagy-Ecsed, Elizabeth went to live in Sárvár Castle with her future mother-in-law, who died the next year. Elizabeth continued to live for another four years there, where it is rumored that she became pregnant and had a child that was later smuggled away.


Sadistic and Psychotic  


At the age of fifteen, Elizabeth was finally married to Count Ferencz for no reason other than for politic gain. Ferencz was a solder who was found to be both aristocratic, which he learned in his upbringing at the Imperial Court in Vienna, but also common in his behavior. The wedding took place on May 8, 1575 and continued for weeks. After the wedding, Elizabeth made her way to her new home in the Castle of Csejthe. A cold and miserable place, Csejthe was surrounded only by a village of uneducated peasants in the cold Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania, Romania. Now the lady of the castle, Elizabeth found herself alone with her husband away on campaigns and gallivanting with other women. Taking no interest in outdoor sports, Elizabeth found that she needed to amuse herself and did so with the help of Italian sex toys and dye to make her hair the white color Venetian women were dying their hair at the time.

But soon Elizabeth tired of these and found interest in the arts of alchemy and wizardry. She gathered about her those equipped and learned in the dark and sinister arts of the Devil, those outlawed in any Christian kingdom. Sorcerers, witches, and seers all gathered with Elizabeth and taught her unspeakable and horrific lessons. Still a teenager, Elizabeth began to experiment her new torturous methods on the people of the castle.

            Elizabeth became obsessed with torture and fetishes. Her aunt, Klara Báthory, a bisexual who showed signs of insanity, shared these interests and taught Elizabeth the 'art' of flagellation. Elizabeth loved to torture. Even for the smallest mistakes Elizabeth would endlessly torture her servants. They were whipped ferociously and stabbed with needles. Others were chained to walls naked and whipped across their front so Elizabeth could watch her victims' faces as they wriggled in pain. Once, a girl was tied to a tree naked and smeared with honey. Another time, a girl was found to have suffered the punishment of having her jaw sawed up because she 'talked too much'. Often, servants were punished for crimes they did not commit. If one was accused of something they would often find themselves nude, being burned with hot irons of even coins. A sadistic and sick woman, Elizabeth was encouraged by her friends, and possibly even her husband.

In 1585, Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter, Anna. She had four other children - Orsolya, Katalin, András and Pal. András died young, as did Orsolya. With two daughters and one son, Elizabeth took on the role of being a mother figure, though today she would not be considered an ideal mother. Although her husband's consort, Elizabeth accompanied him on trips to Vienna throughout her career and on other important trips. But by 1604, her life had taken quite an interesting turn when her husband was killed by a prostitute in Bucharest (His death is disputable, some say he died of an illness in 1602).

Now the ruler of Csejthe castle and a rich one at that, Elizabeth furthered her ties with people in high places. Count György Thurzó, the cousin of her son-in-law, Count Miklós Zrinyi (married to Anna, Elizabeth's daughter), Anna Báthory Elizabeth's cousin, and Gábor Báthory all supported or were supported by Elizabeth.

            Elizabeth had never truly cared for her former husband and now had the excuse to pursue her own love. However, she sadly realized that she was now in her forties and that her beauty was fading away and leaving behind an older woman. Not only did Elizabeth care for a new husband but also for politics. She had strong ties with the royal families of some eastern European states and was also in the succession line for the Polish throne. But Elizabeth believed she would forfeit this all if she lost her appeal and sexuality. Depressed and moody, Elizabeth became even more torturous. And that is where the legend of Elizabeth Báthory begins.
The Cost of Beauty
           Obsessed with the idea of beauty, Elizabeth's life took a turn one day when she hit a servant girl across the face. Because of her long nails, Elizabeth dug into the girl's skin and a drop of the girls blood hit Elizabeth's face. Later, Elizabeth thought she noticed that where the blood had hit made her skin look smoother and like the skin of a younger woman. Questioning her alchemists, they concluded probably to appease her as she was giving them hospitality that this was the case, that the girls blood had had an effect on Elizabeth's skin. Elizabeth also consulted a beauty expert, Katarina, who agreed with the opinion of the alchemists. Elizabeth concluded that if she bathed in the blood of young virgins she would be young and beautiful again. And so at night, Elizabeth and her witch friends, including Dorotta Szentes, Elizabeth's helper in intimate affairs, slipped out into the village and countryside to collect virgin girls. Sometimes, if girls were not taken in the night, they were taken when peasants were persuaded to send their daughters to live in security in the castle. The girls were never heard from again. Each new group of them was hung upside-down both alive and naked as their throats were cut, the blood pouring out to make up Elizabeth's bath. Sometimes Elizabeth would even stand under the dead body and let the blood flow onto her. If a very beautiful girl was found, Elizabeth would drink the girl's blood, sometimes from a cup and other times as it poured from the pale body hung high in the rafters of the room. Sometimes the girls were not killed right away but rather Elizabeths' interest in torture was rekindled and the girls were beaten, burned, and stabbed. Sometimes Elizabeth would put burning candles into the naked girls' vaginas just for the fun of it. Or hot iron pokers.
           But Elizabeth found that the blood of these peasant girls was not good enough and need noble blood instead. She found her opportunity when she opened an academy to educate noble families girls in 1609 right in the walls of her castle. But the girls began to go missing. Elizabeth, assisted by Dorotta Szentes, continued to torture the girls and found that the job was so easy. In a craze of sadistic joy she had four of the naked and deformed bodies thrown from the castle walls. In 1610, Elizabeth traveled with her daughter Anna to take a mud bath and later to Sárvár to visit her son. But back at Csejthe, the bodies of the four girls had been found and authorities were alerted by the town priest.
Guilty...or was she innocent?
             Emperor Matthias II of Hungary was quickly alerted of the horrors that had been discovered. Ordering that Elizabeth be put on trial, the Hungarian Parliament reversed a law that a noble could not be publicly tried and she was brought forward later that year (1610). Her accomplices tortured, Elizabeth was reported to have killed from 36 to 200 servants (female and male) and girls. A diary with 650 names of those whom she had killed was reputed to have existed but was never brought forward. Stories circulated that Elizabeth had bitten her victims and tortured them. At the trials conclusion, it was found that 600 servants, peasants, and nobles had gone missing under Elizabeth's protection. Elizabeth's accomplices were tortured, their fingers torn from their hands, before being burned at the stake for witchcraft. Elizabeth herself was confined to a tower in Csejthe with only slits for air, food, and water. She was found dead on August 21, 1614.

 The legend of Elizabeth killing hundreds of girls for the use of bathing in their blood and drinking their blood was not born until the 18th century and so it is most likely not true. It is a fact that Elizabeth's servants were horribly tortured but now even their torture is being disputed as accidental. It is thought perhaps Elizabeth was innocent at her trial and that she was accused simply because it was feared she would later be brought to trial on false charges by nobles of Hungary to take away her inheritance, land, and titles. This was not rare at the time in Hungary. In fact, Elizabeth's own cousin, Anna Báthory (not her daughter), suffered this fate and was falsely discredited and died in 1640 after three trials that left her penniless.